The Human Universe:
Twelve Frames of Reality
The human universe is the whole set of real objects, forces, and events that we humans find and name.
There is only one reality, one set that includes everything. Any definition of
real ends in tautology because it must be self referential. We are not equipped to know it all in one gulp because we are inside it ourselves and because we are able to keep only a few things in attention at one time. Our knowledge of the unified reality is broken into parts, parts like physics and politics, and our understanding of how all of these fit themselves together is dim, even while most of us believe strongly that the connections are real.
All of philosophy, science, and theology is the refinement of the correspondence between whatever is real and our language about it. Our task as individuals and as humanity is to encode all of nature, including ourselves, by name and test. From this comes all of our technology and dominance of the physical universe. This is both the whole of science and the charge made to us in Genesis. Every single bit of this quest is language, encoded reality. And yes, for some parts of the reality of the whole, for some of us, revelation from the biblical God, also language, comes into play.
A Picture Window on the Universe.
Imagine looking out of my back windows: grass, fence, birdbath. As you notice the trees and the grass a certain sense of scale dominates your mind. You see what fits this scale. The lawn is a large, flat green object--not billions of green blades nor thousands of billions of pale green cells, nor countless protein molecules, nor even more countless atoms, nor impossibly countless quarks and other particles. I would need a very special window, one shaped like FermiLab, to see some of these worlds. But at the scale of ordinary human experience the lawn is only a flat green thing. Now I look up and see my neighbors house, and more houses beyond that. Another scale, another frame in our window. Now I can see, beyond all the roofs, a mountain sixty miles away to the South called Pike's Peak. Another scale, another frame in the window. A bit of sky away I find the moon and my focus is further still and the mountain has been absorbed into the noise of the earth-moon system, disappearing until the frames are switched again. That pane of glass turned out to be a telescope.
I can pull back and see my dear wife with her roses. Now my seeing is completely different, less the knowledge from the eye and more the insight of the brain and the feelings, as we say, of the heart. But still my back windows, though a different frame.
Each shift requires a different scale of size and time. Some shifts, such as the sound/language boundary, require encoding and decoding, not telescopes and microscopes. The shifts are in our mental equipment and language, not in the real world which maintains all scales simultaneously. Again, these frames of size and speed have a limited scope because our brains are not able to hold all scales in view at once.
I use the word frame in two ways. First, like a picture frame, by surrounding it defines a view, a fenestration, of the world. This is the same usage as
framing a house. Second, it is the stile between two fenestrations, the boundary between levels. I will introduce the concept of virtual atoms to help clarify this set of edges to the divisions of reality.
A University Universe
Another example of frames is the university of fiefdoms, each with an endowment, a chairman, and a field of study: physics, chemistry, English, history, economics, theology, etc. Sometimes these artificial frames around disciplines make sense and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they are silly and vain. But like a healthy university system, the idea of frames can help us analyze the world around us and in us by isolating rule sets, levels, scales, and media.
I have no doubt that others will frame the universe differently and that the universe will remain the same no matter what language we assign to its parts. Or which department head takes charge of each one. But I do hope that my division of the world into frames proves useful to you and serves as a basis for further discussion about how we experience the world. With less confidence I also hope that my twelve frames reflect reality accurately. Please do not defenestrate this view of things.
A Mediated Universe
My primary criterion for framing reality is mediation. There are natural breaks, it appears to me, in reality where one level or frame rests or rides on another. For example, biology requires chemistry. I know that a medium is usually understood as ink and paper or carved marble. But please see how there is a sense in which quarks are the medium of atoms, atoms are the medium of stars and rocks, chemistry is the medium that carries life, and life is the medium that enables language and thought.
The frames, or stiles, I identify are edges of networks of particles in one frame where bulk properties, derived from particle properties, dominate to the extent that the next frame, or fenestration, can ignore, mostly, the properties of individual particles in the lower frame. Thus, to a chemist, particle physics is (mostly!) a black box. An atom is a virtual fundamental particle in the frame of chemistry. But because what we name as an atom is actually divisible into smaller bits, an atom is actually a virtual atom. I call these bits out of which everything is made tessella.
One frame does not replace another but instead uses the other frame as a medium for its virtual atoms and virtual causes and effects. Reductionism and entropy insist that this relationship of media to mediated is a one way street, like time. Only living systems, especially language, are able to reverse, locally, entropy. And that makes the living/non living frame edge the greatest break in the symmetry of cause and effect.
In the real world these boundaries leak. For example, light is and remains in its own frame even as it interacts with objects (virtual atoms) in every other frame. The State holds individuals to itself today largely by communication devices that exploit the properties of electro-magnetic radiation. Another example of the leaky nature of my frames is the quantum mechanical properties, normally only associated with subatomic particles, shown by atoms in laboratory conditions. This leakiness does not negate the causal boundary between frames. Instead, it allows a cleaner analysis of what is happening in any specific event. This is because, for example, light remains in its frame and my eye remains in its frame and I remain in mine all during my look out of my window.
Notice that something changes about time somewhere between quantum events and historical events. I believe that the major break is at the living/nonliving super-frame edge, but almost every frame marks a change in the way time is related to the other dimensions and tessellae. In the subatomic frames, the world of quarks and quanta, time is logically and mathematically reversible. The conservation laws and the thermodynamic laws calculate and operate forward and reverse the same. Some small effect may have an arrow of time and no matter how tiny it may make all the difference in our existence or not. But to a great precision this is true, that the smallest systems have no preferred direction of time. In subsequent frames time does have an arrow that we name entropy. Stars begin as nearly pure hydrogen and helium gas and end up full of all the other elements from lithium to iron. In the largest stars, the ones that become novas, the heavier metals up to uranium are also formed. This process does not reverse. In cooler regions iron does not unrust, nitrogen molecules do not separate into nitrogen atoms, and carbon dioxide does not often disassociate into oxygen and carbon. The arrow of time points in one direction only, to stability and the lowest energy states. With life it is different, for life selects out of chaos eutropy, shedding entropy into the rest of the universe. Living systems have an arrow of time. This is a virtual arrow because life's trick is reversing entropy locally and not cosmically. When we come to the frame that contains history we need words like progress and Dark Age, for the arrow of time cuts off all cycling and circles because each event and person is completely unique and bound into its time frame. When people say
History repeats itself. they must mean, for anything else is unthinkable, that human beings tend to behave the same age after age.
Time is a perfect example of how things change and stay the same from frame to frame. It is always a scalar and it always comes between cause and effect. But day and night,
Just a second! spin up to spin down, half life, history, geology, and Big Bang are all different sorts of time.
Networked Cause and the Enabling of Effects
Please notice an important characteristic of these boundaries that I identify as stiles. Cause and effect and the conservation laws still apply, naturally, but there is a broken symmetry. Within a frame a specific cause requires a specific effect. If an atom absorbs a photon, one electron associated with that atom will change a specific energy level. There are no options, no freedom. There is probability, there is always probability, but here too the percentages of this or that are constant and predictable. Events proceed as mathematics describes.
The change at a frame boundary is that the lower frame provides a medium for the higher frame but it does not cause the higher frame. For example, a flower requires dirt but dirt does not cause flowers. There is plenty of dirt around with no flowers in sight, ever. But without dirt, or an artificial substitute, flowers cannot bloom. Dirt enables flowers to grow. Dirt causes flowers to be enabled. Dirt, despite its complex and varied composition, is atomic for vegetable life.
Some will say that this is no more than a bungled misstatement of Aristotle's Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final Causes. I protest. For Aristotle spoke almost exclusively of cause and effect in one single frame, that of human language. Form and substance are apparent and useful categories at a cultural level but have little use in physics of the very large and very small. Or in the middle, for that matter. The Efficient Cause is helpful in understanding the natural world but most of the time Aristotle uses human examples, like the artist making a statue. The Final Cause has no place in natural science, including biological evolution. It is pure animal, and especially language using human, intentional motivation. No electron ever moved because it was needed to deionize another atom. Therefore when I speak about one frame providing a medium for the next higher frame, nothing of Aristotle's causes in needed, implied, or borrowed from.
This set of ideas replaces chain determinism with network and specific determinism. Chain determinism is that ancient claim that cause and effect is particle to particle from the smallest to the largest scale, from nonliving to living stuff. Further more, all events and effects, including mental and thoughts, were predetermined from these chains of particle to particle. You know the story. If there were a demon who knew the position and velocity of every particle in the universe, that demon could predict the position and velocity of every particle in the universe a moment from now, a century from now, forever. He could predict what you will select from the restaurant menu at lunch ten years from now. Human free will is an illusion. Accept for initial conditions, God's free will is also an illusion. It was as if anvils flew across the tool shed because eons ago an assortment of particles were in a certain position at a certain velocity that caused, eons later, every iron atom in the anvil to simultaneously fly off in the same direction. Instead, the anvil will fly across the room because somebody, a living person, decided to throw it.
Instead of this fixed future, I see a networked determinism. In an anvil the position and velocity of any one iron atom has no predictive quality. The position and velocity of the anvil does have predictive quality. The fate of any one iron atom is dependent on the fate of the whole assembly, not on its own particular vibrations and position. This is useful because it keeps determinism and reductionism while breaking the chain determinism and chain of being implied by item to item reductionism. Each new frame comes with new degrees of freedom within a universe still bound by strict cause and effect and the conservation of matter and energy.
The frames outlined below all mark a boundary, a membrane, that breaks rigid determinism. Cause and effect describe every bit and event of the human universe. This is encoded in the conservation laws and fully supported by my system of frames and mediation, which I call specific determinism. In other words, deterministic rules within a frame support by bulk properties a different but related set of rules in the next frame. This particular essay is an introduction to that system and little more than a list of frames. Elsewhere I discuss the alternative to rigid determinism. For now, all I offer is one brief but important example.
Life exploits the specific determinism of chemistry, especially organic chemistry, to provide for itself a new environment where entropy can be reversed. Living systems use selection, filtering, choice, and encoding to enable a new set of cause and effect rules. Their medium is the chaotic mix of chemicals in water that do follow strict cause and effect rules, chaotically. Consider a jell of water, protein, and carbohydrates. In the presence of oxygen but no life, the organics will oxidize and degrade to simpler, lower energy compounds. A slow burn that we name entropy. But if one fungal cell is present the whole mass will soon turn into all fungal cells. This is the growth that reverses entropy. That difference is the barrier between living and non living systems. Same universe, same particles, same atoms, same physics, same everything but this: a new system of causes and effects mediated by another system of causes and effects.
Each new frame that I identify represents a similar barrier to rigid determinism and a medium for a new specific determinism. This is what I mean by the slogan,
Flowers need dirt but dirt does not cause flowers.
When cosmic reductionism is added to cosmic determinism great damage is done to wisdom. Bound together cosmically they are fatalistic. Cause and effect are frozen into a crystal throughout time and space. Chaos is gone. Free will is gone. History is gone.
Yet the two words reduction and determined are necessary in our understanding of the world because they contain the basic ideas of conservation of matter and energy. There are not two sorts of matter, living and nonliving. The particles of physics are not disconnected from stars. It is one universe and that universe has one history. At the same time, not every particle is connected to every star. Stars are not even connected to each other. Even if strict reductionism and determinism are true, they only apply locally, to a specific set of events and objects, limited by the reach of the forces involved. Yes, light from ancient and distance, to be redundant, galaxies reaches our local star. Is there any effect from these photons? Hum. Yes, but so trivial as to be a virtual zero. Except for this possibility: that the sole language using life form circling our local star learns some abstraction from these few photons and comes to control the light from the local star. But that makes my point about frames, free will, and punctuated reductionism.
Flowers need dirt but dirt does not cause flowers. In other words, dirt, or the rest of the physical universe, is a prerequisite for life to live. But there is nothing automatic or predictable about the existence of a flower seed in that soil, as any child gardener knows.
For me, it is helpful to understand the place of reductionism, its usefulness and limits, to think of the chain of
This causes that. as punctuated by frames. The reduction of one cause and one effect to smaller and smaller scales is altered by the virtual atoms of which each frame consists. For example, if an atom of oxygen shares a electron with a carbon atom, there will be a molecule of carbon monoxide. Which atom of oxygen and which atom of carbon? It does not make any difference. For the atoms are virtual atoms whose's virtual atoms are electrons and protons. The carbon may start in condensed form in our example but the oxygen will not. The new molecules will certainly be a gas in our usual environment. These properties are from the individual virtual atoms (a carbon atom and an oxygen atom in one frame and a molecule of CO in a different frame), not from some abstract notion of carbon or oxygen. The math works, the physics works, and at each level our language works as reductionist and determinist. But language is coded and generalized, even universalized, but each virtual atom is isolated and individual as far as the frame it supports is concerned. So some causative event in another frame will have no effect on this frame, on any one specific molecule of CO.
Think of my dad, Chuck Johnsen, giving directions.
Where is Hart Road? Now, he was Batavia Township Highway Commissioner and had seal coated Hart Road. He would point and say,
Well, go to this corner here and turn left. No. Right. Then go about a mile, maybe a little less, maybe two blocks. Then turn… No, straight… Ya, know, he would say as he dropped his arms in despair,
I don't believe you can get there from here.
It always got a laugh and then a set of directions easy to follow. Here is the point. Sure, we can imagine and even calculate the path and interactions of every sort of particle, atom, and molecule to many decimal places. But we are far away, will always be far away, from predicting the path and interactions of any one specific virtual atom in any system unless it be at the human level. Time scales divide us from the ultra small just as surely as they divide us from the ultra large. Light years isolate our human scale just as effectively as femtoseconds do. We have a map in our heads of how these events happen but that map is useless in other frames where a map that begins with a new set of virtual atoms and ignores what formed them is more useful.
A Universal Tapestry
To introduce the frames through which I see the world, imagine an old tapestry, a woven cloth of large size covered with castles and knights, maidens and horses. The tapestry is covered with panels, like a comic book, that tell a story with a moral lesson. There are ten frames of structure in our tapestry: Fiber, Thread, Yarn, Weave, Cloth, Pattern, Panels, Pictures, Characters, and Story. Bear in mind that the difference in scale from strings to human beings is far, far greater than smallest to largest in a tapestry. And there are two other frames, the Loom and the Weaver, which are not present in the tapestry.
Direct, Unencoded, Entropic, Non Living Frames
Fiber, Frame One: Strings and Fields
Let us first go small: fibers of wool. With a magnifying glass the tapestry itself disappears and a single fiber fills the whole eye and attention. This frame uses an optical device to isolate and comprehend detail. The fiber has color and thickness and there may be several different sorts of fibers. But in this frame there are no elephants or water glassesor knights and maidens. Only fuzzy, stringy, wool fibers. Physics today uses a term called string theory to talk about the smallest and the quickest. The habits of these strings and forces are so strange and the scales are so fast and tiny that our ordinary human scale frames cannot see them. Even our most creative language, mathematics, cannot see this scale of time and space clearly—yet. Therefore we really do not yet have names for the virtual atoms, if any, of this frame. Instead, it is the frame that is stable when its parts are united into the virtual atoms that are the next frame.
This is the first frame. Everything in the next frame uses these quanta of reality for substance and sequence. I wonder, sometimes, if strings and forces exist isolated from particles of the next frame.
Thread, Frame Two: Quantum Particles
A lower power of magnification lets us see the threads made of fibers. This is the world, in our universal tapestry, of quantum mechanics; the world of particles and waves. Threads depend on the properties of the fibers they are made of to allow a huge increase in length and an increase in strength. Particle/waves like electrons and photons depend on the properties of the strings that they are made of for their characteristics. Instead of a unit of spin, a unit of charge, and a unit of mass we have a single particle, an electron, that will interact with other particles and atoms in ways that no isolated string property could. There is no freedom, no choice, nothing is encoded.
Yarn, Frame Three: Atoms
Now, if we have very good eyes, we can see the yarn in the tapestry without a glass. In the material universe of the tapestry, the yarn is made of thread twisted into a new string, stronger and more stable than the threads alone. Colors, the artist's true raw material, are dyed into the yarn. The physical universe we see is made of atoms, combinations of electrons, neutrons, and protons. Quarks, from Frame Two, are bound up tightly into neutrons and protons and these two particles define the nucleus of the atom. Atoms have an exact (unless ionized) balance of electrons and protons and a more or less balance between protons and neutrons. Electrons associate with a nucleus to bring electrical neutrality to the atom, a rest state. But it is the dance of those electrons, their interactions with photons, both still in the Thread Frame, Frame Two, that produces the colors we see of ordinary materials.
Weave, Frame Four: Molecules
In and out, over and under, simple structures and complex, the weave of a fabric provides its three dimensional structure and strength. The habits of these weaves are predictable statistically. Each strand of a tapestry is on the average 0.5 millimeter from its next door neighbor, but that can easily vary by 0.2 millimeter. Measure a thousand strands at once and that piece of cloth will be, close enough, 1 meter wide. And we also have a third dimension, a thickness to the cloth.
The medium that carries ordinary matter, molecular matter, is the atom, Frame Three. The structures and relationships these atoms take to each other as they form molecules are named valance. Like a weave, these valance relationships within molecules are regular and predictable. Atoms associate with each other in molecules like hydrogen oxide (H2O) or hydrogen gas (H2). Such is the case with ordinary matter, all of the stuff from air to oceans to rocks to planets to stars to galaxies.
Cloth, Frame Five: Condensed Matter
Condensed matter is usually defined as liquids and solids. Think of two sorts of cloth, one flannel and one woven. The flannel is the gas, atomic matter loosely associated without structure. A woven fabric is highly organized and structured as the crystal structure of most condensed matter is. A gas cloud out in the galaxy is a unit because its own mass provides gravity and because near by stars push the cloud into a single formation. But in a liquid or solid strong forces of charge and valance hold atoms and molecules together in regular structures. This is like the whole cloth on which the tapestry is painted. It is the whole world, a virtual world, for the maidens and dragons to inhabit.
Indirect, Encoded, Eutropic, Living Frames
Pattern, Frame Six: Life.
The chaotic variations of the Weave provide an opportunity (a medium) for creating islands of order for a system that knows the trick of selection. So many threads this color, so many that, a few iterations and then some other mix of colors. Now there is a pattern, several patterns. This is not the cold crystal, every single spot on the cloth like very other single spot on the cloth. Non living cloth or matter is not a pattern because it is not encoded. The pattern exists in one way outside of the cloth, as a sketch or mental picture that orders the choice of color to make a virtual line, color fill, or space. As the pattern of color changes from warp to warp and from woof to woof, it reverses entropy and provides both variation and regularity. This elbow room allows life to use ordinary condensed matter like water and clay as a medium for its virtual existence. Such a regime allows order and chance to tolerate each other and provides a medium for the next frame.
Life is encoded, rather a recipe to build a living cell is encoded, on DNA. The atoms of life are amino acids. This is organic chemistry as a medium that supports selection and filtering which is virtual selection and intent. And selection allows life to defy entropy, to grow and not decay, to reproduce and not remain a unique snow flake. But the range and degrees of freedom, infinitely greater than non living materials but only because the other frame's choices are zero, are still limited to what organic chemistry can support. A steel rod of the same size or weight as a bone is far stronger. Birds can fly but not beyond the atmosphere.
The virtual atoms from which life is made are molecules, especially amino acids, carbohydrates, and water. Life forms virtual atoms we name individual organisms of archaebacteria, eubacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. Sometimes I believe another frame must be created to divide cells from organisms. I do not do this for three reasons: most individual organisms are also individual, single cells and eukaryote cells are themselves combinations of virtual atoms like flagella and mitochondria. Perhaps multicellular organisms are a subframe?
Images, Frame Seven: Language.
Next, pulling back further, we find that aggregating the patterns of line and color has produced an image of a tree or castle or sword, even a knight. These things have names. If we pull the threads out and put them (or a different set of the same colors) back in a new place in the same pattern and design we still have a tree or a castle or a sword, even a knight. The patterns have themselves become a medium for images. In turn, this language of images has become the medium the artist uses to define her characters.
Language is the ultimate in freedom. Not only does language enable the envisioning of things not natural but possible, it also allows the creation of things that cannot exist. This is because language is not only encoded, it is all code. The series of phonemes C O W, or specifically arranged dots on a computer screen, stand in and represent a female bovine animal. So do the words
…female bovine animal. What about the words
invisible cow? There is no such thing in reality but there are real cows. It is the task of human culture to sort out the difference and see to it that we understand the difference between imaginary real and imaginary not real. With the freedom language gives us comes the burden of truth, another word for correspondence.
Human language includes music, mathematics, representational art, writing, speaking, listening, and dance when it tells a story.
The virtual atoms of language are words: nouns, verbs, modifiers. The virtual forces and fields of language are the parts of syntax and syntax itself. This leaves a disconnect between cellular life and the nervous systems that are able to form words and create syntax. The virtual atoms of this missing frame might be the language implementation structures in each individual human brain.
Panels, Frame Eight: Memes.
The next level of organization on the tapestry is the panel. Panels are put in order to tell a story and the individual panel delimits a single event. Perhaps a dragon rains fire on a village or a king appeals to a knight for help. We know enough about ourselves, we have a Theory of Mind, and we are able to understand what is happening from the frozen pictures, the artistic language of castle, princess, tears, and fire. We are far, far into abstraction, into the representation of reality by art, really language. But what we see when we look at the panel is more than just a collection of images, there is meaning moving between the virtual people and we know what that meaning is.
Think of zero, random, infinite, vacuum. None of them exist in the real world. But in language they are virtual things, real enough to be useful. Without them we could not design and build real objects like space craft, ball bearings, and paper. Nearly every word in these sentences is not only a noun but a meme. A meme is like a gene or virus made of words instead of amino acids that replicates, not in living cells, but in living languages. A meme is a virtual living thing. Like an infection, it can spread from one person to another. For example, a garage is a horse barn for automobiles. Once you see one, the word
garage becomes a virtual object that uses the language engine in your brain to survive, grow, and reproduce. And, like a useful gene, the meme
garage serves us as a recipe to build an actual structure with a useful function. Under a language version of natural selection and descent with variation, it replaced car barn or automobile house and someday will be replaced by another meme. Notice that there are several meanings, a bit of that variation, like a business that services cars. Notice that it will be like the buggy whip–if personal automobiles go away, so will garage. Then we will have to come up with another word for the meme
garage sale. Meanwhile, like a good gene, this meme is useful to the culture that hosts it.
The reference to natural selection and descent with variation points to a theme. Every one of the Living Frames (Six through Eleven) has some form of this rule operating but they are all different in important ways. Living organisms are built from recipes (genes) encoded on strands of DNA. An individual dies with the genes it is born with, except for timing and environmental switches like methylation. This means that selection only happens in the context of reproduction were variation is introduced by sex. There is a layer of indirection in gene selection because it is the product built from the gene instructions that is selected for, not the gene itself. Languages know this limitation to individual organisms (people), but it is far from absolute because the individual can learn a second language or even new words. Watching language evolve over a single human life time in America drives this home. There is descent because words have clear antecedents and etymologies. There is variation because pronunciations change, meanings shift, and meanings fork. There is selection because new forms appear and old forms disappear in a few years. Beyond language itself, the population of memes clearly evolves according to its own similar set of rules. But here there is more competition, as if there were a limited amount of space in the human brain and culture to hold them.
It is fun to point out that the Brothers Grimm published theories of language evolution, descent with variation, before Darwin published his ideas.
You may have noticed how hostile I am to the ideas and Ideas of Plato. I occurs to me that this may be the memes I carry pushing Plato's memes out of the culture to make room for themselves. I am the agent of meme aggression, of
…nature savage in tooth and claw.
Characters, Frame Nine: Persons
There are panels in our tapestry that show events, a little story about a knight pledging to his lady, going off to war or quest, returning to be happy ever after. Or perhaps some darker story. At this level we see more than cloth, we see character and personality, choices and accidents. We see human life through the medium of pictures drawn with colored thread. Armor is a knight, silk is a maiden. It is this frame that contains almost all of human experience. We know hunger from two frames down, we know broken bones from the gravity of four frames down. But our days are most filled with conversation, social interaction, exchanges, thought, and feelings. We have a name and probably a nation, a church, a profession, and a job. We have families. All of these are abstractions beyond the glimpse of a smart dog or horse, all riding on the medium of language and symbol and coded information. We are, our personalities are, that collection and arrangement of memes: family, marriage, my marriage, house, job, my job, honor, love, and thousands of others. Finally, the meme we build is that meme we name with our own name, our self. We live in this frame, animals who mediate a person. We are a meme. We are virtual persons, the only kind there is.
Story, Frame Ten: Incorporations
From the virtual characters and their virtual interactions the artist builds a story, a plot, that makes a larger unit than people and their roles. Imagine our tapestry tells the story, panel by panel, of a dragon that sets fire to a castle. The king's daughter is in tears and the villagers are hurt or dead. The king summons his knight to destroy the dragon and offers the princess in marriage. The knight does battle and several panels later kills the dragon. Then the villagers and the king rejoice and welcome the knight home. Not just a story but a teaching important in that culture. There is a moral to the story. Knights have obligations, honor, and reward. The nobles protect the people and keep their word about princesses and dragons. Princesses have duties as well. And villagers too own a part of this organization. Every time these tales are told in Europe there is a cross in view on a shield or castle wall or in the hand of the bishop.
The creation of these super organisms of town, country, company, and church are the highest achievement of human beings. Think of Western Culture. Think of France. Think of General Electric. Think of science. Also, remember some that have died or will soon die: communism, Fascism, socialism. And then think of what these virtual super organisms have done: gone to moon, created great wealth, produced art, decided law, found knowledge, provided safety to millions. And horrors of blood and death. It is this frame that generates history and consolidates, or ruins, human progress. We individual human beings, in the best of worlds, keep our individual will and life while providing the medium and physical movements of the virtual super organisms. E Pluribus Unum.
How Time Becomes History
In the nonliving parts of the universe time is a dimension, what physicists call a scalar, like the spacial dimensions. It is bidirectional and seems, but for a few very important exceptions, to have no fixed pace or direction. Entropy and disentanglement are real but so are their temporal opposites. The equations work both ways and the conservation laws are obeyed to either end of time's arrow.
The five frames of living systems have a different sort of time. From a strand of DNA decoded in a specific order, each in turn, to growth, reproduction, death, and decay; then to evolution, to the vast history of life on earth, time is given a direction. There is a fixed past and an open future, there is descent and variation, there is accomplishment and opportunity. But this is still not history.
Language brings more to the notion of time. It is not just word order but syntax itself that brings order to the natural world. Verb tense, subject and object, the abstraction of event and object—these shape the meaning of time into something like a drum beat or a march. A parade. But this is still not history.
A personal history is short, only those years from learning to talk to when our breathing stops. But it is the personality thing, this ego, which is all tied up in time and the diary of life. Constantly being replaced, none of the atoms and few of the undivided cells we were born with do we die with. At sixty-six I have very little in common with myself at eleven. And any memories before the age of language are rare. Yet that is me, was me, is me, will be me. In what sense? Only in the continuity of memory, largely language memory and not conditioned learning, does my sense of self survive. Now we are only one small step from a full meaning of the world history.
History began in Shumer. the saying goes. And, if we add up the years and the generations in Genesis, the Bible seems to agree with that, at least in dating. And this is the final piece that makes history history: civilizations and the continuity of same. For a single human life is too short and needs be woven together with thousands of overlapping other lives before the long view of history is full.
Two Final Frames
Loom, Frame Zero: Empty.
I say twelve frames but only ten of them are real stuff. The zeroth is an abstraction, a deduction of reality based on what we know is real. In other words, the loom must have existed for the tapestry to come into existence. But the loom is not here, it may have been burnt for fire wood. So also there must be a loom that the strings and bits of the universe are first laid out on, a vacuum fluctuation, a way of things or suchness of reality. But it is not really there, like zero stands between plus and minus but is not really there. That is why I call the first frame The Zeroth Frame.
A lot of work is being done today in cosmology on these ideas. There may be no such thing as a complete vacuum because even without any lasting events there is a constant flux of virtual particles coming and going without remaining effects. There seems to be a granularity to nothing so that there is no such thing as nothing. Several of the descriptions of this hot and busy emptiness make guesses about how the pseudo events might produce real, lasting effects. If this is true, the universe is self generating. The first and primary law of physics may end up being
There is no nothing.
no egg, no chicken question is often asked of evolution. If life started out as bare naked proteins and amino acids, where are they are now? Or, if there was a first cell, which one is it? The difficulties recede when we realize that any reproducing cell would have quickly eaten up all loose proteins and amino acids and any cell slightly more successful than the other in a two cell type environment would have quickly wiped out the other. The same with the Loom. Other Essays on Frames
It may still be here as dark matter or dark energy, stuff we are only now beginning to be able to see and measure. In any case, we humans are physically made of molecules, cells, and organs. Our world does not include the tiny and fast world of the vacuum flux so, until now, it is invisible to us. Light and stars and oceans swamp us with signal that masks and replaces the existence of any signal that nothing is actually an active, foaming vacuum.
If this Loom of empty space and time is real then there is no need for a First Cause and we have at last out grown Aristotle. There may have been a First Effect, perhaps the Big Bang, but no First Cause is required. And there is no need for concepts like eternity either, for without events that leave permanent effects, time does not exist. Eternity then becomes a synonym for vacuum. Neither has any significance.
Weaver, Frame Eleven: The Living God.
Finally, the Eleventh Frame. One of the super organisms, the One we call the lord, is conscious like a human being only far more so. He mechanizes Himself through us, the Body of Christ, Israel. Notice that this is not passive, that we construct Him, but active, He generates Himself. We are His medium as our medium is our language and biology. He speaks and listens by means of His Word. He is, ultimately, in control of history. He is the Weaver. Like a weaver, and like life itself, He creates by selection and filtering. Like us, He creates by naming and ordering. But He is more than both and is able to create in ways that I do not understand. One of the differences between Him and us is certainly how He experiences time.
Please notice that whereas other philosophic systems would place the Deity, such as it is in other systems, at the the bottom of things, involved with tiny forces and particles that have no freedom or will or personality; in this system of frames and mediation, He is at the top of the food chain. He is the only unique one, highly complex, above human beings, separate from all of the rest of His Creation.
But do not pigeonhole this God into the categories of mundane philosophy. His design is that there is no design, that the universe is contingent, that men and women have free will, that chain determinism be broken, and that history is a learning process for His children, the human race.
This altogether different sort of person, the God of the Bible, does not conform to our ideas, nor can He be discovered by our science or philosophy. Only His Word, revelation, allows us to know Him, if only in part and in a slowly increasing detail. Think of your pet dog and yourself and the relationship between you. Only by direct intention and teaching does a dog learn a few words of human language. But that dog cannot even glimpse what you do with language, the world you live in and work in and trade in. Even that is not enough broken symmetry. We are like the brain cells of a giant. A single, isolated neuron, if fed, is very much alive. It may fire off signals through axons and even grow a dendrite or two. But it is not you. Groups of neurons can form mental gadgets like a map follower or a visual object sorter. But such a collection of neurons, no matter how sophisticated, is not you. Neither is your whole human brain you. That would be a high level particle to particle, chain determinism. Instead, the brain mechanizes and is the medium for our personalities and self. The brain is not self aware, we are self aware, and use the neurons of our brains to perform this feat of language and thought. Please remember that this brain cell to human personality and human personality to Ha Shem is only an analogy, a help in understanding.
He is certainly more than this. Instead of encompassing all that The Name is, think of the Eleventh Frame as a meeting ground, a sacred place where He is in touch with us, itself a channel to whatever else He is beyond our ken. He reveals to us enough of Himself through the medium of the Body of Christ, Israel, that a conversation between us in human language is possible. Which means that what we see, not what may be beyond the Eleventh Frame, is a virtual God, the only God we will ever know, even in part. That is why He refers to Himself as The Word made flesh. This is what incarnation means in addition to the one, unique event of His birth and death and resurrection as an individual human being.
Does this mean that I believe other gods might also inhabit the Eleventh Frame? No. I will not elaborate because I may inadvertently give some mouse hole for pagans to squeeze through.
So there are three ways, at least, to take the Eleventh Frame. First, as just one more attempt to construct a deity out of poetry and imagination. It can be safely ignored and still allow the usefulness of virtual atomics as a way of understanding the language to reality interface. Please notice that nothing I propose requires extraordinary claims. Second, the Eleventh Frame can be seen as just a window, a glimpse, into the spirit world where God is a dualistic type being without any corporal parts. Up to a point, I have no problem with this either. But if preserving a wreak of a world view, dualism, is the purpose, then nuts to that. For once again, such a system is one more attempt to locate Ha Shem Himself inside of our linguistic world. But, since for most Christians and Jews some form of this view will remain, I cannot bring myself to strongly oppose a mild dualism. The third way is to see that a virtual God, one who uses means to reach us, is all we need. He has promises to keep and from this frame, at the top of the universe, He has the means to do so. Be that wrath or mercy, be that destruction or creation, His Will will be done from the Eleventh Frame.
Where did this view come from? There is no hint of it in any Jewish or Christian philosophy of religion, unless we include science as one such view. But consider Dr. Martin Luther. He insisted that all communication between our God and ourselves was through means, specifically, the Means of Grace, Word and Sacraments. It took nearly fifty years of rolling this hint around in my mind but somehow He who spoke to Moshe finally got through: communication with Abba is not mental telepathy but mediated by language, specifically, the Word of God.
No one in the scientific community need pay any attention to this unless they also, like me, have the experience of such communication with the biblical God through these ordinary means. In that case I suggest they may have no other choice.
For most of Christian history and several centuries longer for Judaism, theology has begun with Greek monotheism and dualism, the God of Plato and Aristotle. Then the Scriptures were interpreted to fit in with these philosophic ideas about God. I proceed differently, taking Scripture first, ignoring the two Greeks, and fitting science into the Bible.
I will publish my essays on this subject soon and often. Neither atheists nor Christians will be happy with this frame and my discussions about it. My only prayer is that my lord is pleased. But then I remember how separate He is from us and regret placing Him in any frame whatsoever, even if it has only one Name in it.
Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:19-20. It is as if Adam, mythic or not, is the first Linnaeus. And that naming is an act of creation.
You have no doubt noticed that I have used the word
windows a lot in this essay but in other places will call the views frames or fenestrations. There are reasons for this. One is that frames are not limited like windows are and fenestrations are even more abstract. A window pane stays the same size no matter how much the view through it expands or contracts in our minds. In a large window with many separate panes, each pane is the same size and the stiles between the panes are all identical. But a frame is made to fit the picture, and not only square pictures. Pictures of different sizes hang side by side, the size dictated by the subject matter and the artist (scientists for physics and biology, philosophers and theologians for other sorts). The frame is a thing itself, a definer of view and a part of the view, and it has size and shape that can be changed from picture to picture and time to time. The art that hangs on the wall includes the frame. But a window is the clear space defined by a line, not a border, and the window frame is not a part of the view. There is more. For the essays that follow, the frames are often overlapping or completely inside another frame. Did you ever try different frames for a picture to see which one was best? Did you ever see a picture with the image of a picture in it? In the same way, a fenestration and frame do not change the reality they order, only our view and apprehension of that reality.
A window implies a pane of glass but a frame or fenestration may be reached through or stepped through into the reality it frames. With a window the most we can do is walk from side to side to see things at narrow angles on the other side of the glass. Yet sometimes the isolation imposed by the pane of glass in the
window helps understanding. For example, a window can be dirty like our knowledge of certain arenas of life or physics is fuzzy. Or, as if it were a transparent barrier, mathematics lets us see and understand quantum goings on but reminds us that we cannot experience them directly.
The other reason is less explainable and more understandable: As much as I admire Mr. Gates and his company, I do not care for the Windows® computer operating system.
I am sure this is true in the broad sweep of things but not so sure on the immediate interactions between a mediating and a mediated frame. For example, what role does the atom as a whole play in the decay of neutrons? I do not know enough to say or even discuss it. But it seems to me that this might also help define a boundary between one system of virtual cause and effect and another. This is not the same as a frame boundary being leaky. This might be, maybe, a firm feature of such boundaries, that at these edges both sorts of causes have effects on both sides. The result of such a binding together at the edge would be that further from the frame edge the separate and specific cause and effect webs would be isolated from each other.
This is the tragedy of politics. When the mediated object, the State, manipulates the mediating objects, people, the flow of information is negative and entropic. The cause and effect rules for an individual and the societies automatically formed from them are often instinctive or deeply cultural, like trade and language. Forcing artificial rules sets, like socialism, against the natural interactions of people is destructive. Understanding the difference between the two frames, individual people and states, is essential for order and wisdom. It prevents artificial systems from oppressing natural systems.
Please notice that I used the word
people, without the article in the last paragraph. The words
the people are a collective noun and therefore are synonyms of
the State and no longer individual persons who act with free will according to the best interests of themselves and their families.
Pardon me. I know that physicists use the words symmetry breaking in a very specific way. But here, at frame boundaries, an order is mixed and turned into another order. For the life of me I cannot think of a better phrase than broken symmetry.
Specific determinism is cause and effect determinism inside a frame boundary. It describes the events when virtual atoms interact. Other names are network determinism and mediated determinism. In living systems, selection, choice, and free will determine outcomes. In molecular systems valance and charge determine outcomes. In stellar systems gravity, temperature, pressure, and opacity determine outcomes.
Chain Determinism is the particle to particle determinism from a set of quarks to the formulation of e=mc2 in a human brain. Other names are strict, rigid, clockwork, and fatalistic determinism. Free will is only applicable, if then, to starting conditions. This view denies the contingent universe and is often cyclical, as in the whole particle by particle series of events from Big Bang to Big Crunch is so rigidly determined that when it goes again it will be identical, forever cycling identically, including this footnote. Nothing this depressing could be true.
Not my most important, but my first objection to chain determinism is that it gives God only one choice, to start stuff or not start stuff, to Big Bang or keep the eternity thing going forever. Once begun, no further interference is needed or possible if particle to particle, chain determinism rules. So, there is no choosing Abraham, no breathing into Adam, no election of Israel, no choosing of Mary and Joseph, no choice to enter human history as Geshua. Determinism gives no room for love.
Laboratory experiments that do isolate a single atom or particle enough to give it a number-name and then manipulate it are a high cost exception to my claim. Good work, we need to test our ideas. But the effort required proves my main point, we cannot do this for the particles involved in ordinary materials at the human scale.
Of course any single work of art is the creative act of an individual. Wealth and discovery are the same. I am not talking about a statue or a single fortune or the light bulb. Egyptian art differed from Greek, European from Indian, Ming Chinese vases from Twentieth Century American paint sloppings. Each is a culture of art too large and uniform to be the work of any one individual. Yet it was an individual hand that mixed the pigments or foot that turned the wheel. Only inventors and engineers know how much individual achievement is a group effort. Science requires freedom and wealth, and sometimes vast organizations, to grow knowledge. And no wealth is created for an individual unless it also creates wealth for those around the company. The exceptions are, of course, government granted monopolies where wealth is not created but stolen.
So my point is this exactly, that the super organisms are made of cooperating individual human beings but produce far more good or evil than any unassociated group of individual human beings.